“This is the second time that Philippines has been named as one of the deadliest for land rights activists…”
By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA — A regional advocacy group named yet again the Philippines as one of the deadliest countries for farmers, farm workers, indigenous people, and land rights activists.
Released by PAN Asia Pacific (PANAP) on Dec. 10 to mark International Human Rights Day, the group monitored a total of 50 land rights activists killed, comprising at least half of the 108 victims of the 84 cases documented from January to November 2019 in 14 countries.
This is the second time that Philippines has been named as one of the deadliest for land rights activists. Last year, the group monitored at least 21 cases and 33 victims of killings in the Philippines from January to November 2018.
Apart from the Philippines, Brazil and Colombia were also named as deadliest in the said “Land & Rights Watch” study, an initiative of PANAP and its partners and networks in the region to closely monitor and expose human rights abuses against communities opposing land and resource grabbing.
PANAP has also monitored a total of 138 cases of human rights violations related to land conflicts and struggles in 23 countries worldwide from January to November 2019.
Carried out by state forces
The group monitored the involvement of state forces in these killings, resulting to a climate of terror and impunity and terror in many rural communities.
In the Philippines, PANAP added that most of the 31 monitored killings were allegedly carried out by state forces as part of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign. Others were perpetrated in countries such as India, Colombia, and Palestine.
Almost 67 percent of the victims were killed by unknown assailants. Most were from Colombia (25 victims), followed by the Philippines (22 victims) and Brazil (eight victims).
In cases where assailants were reported to be “unknown,” affected communities point to both criminal groups and private armies as among the perpetrators.
Attacks used to conceal crisis
In a statement, Zenaida Soriano, national chairperson of Amihan, a group of women peasants, said the attacks against farmers and peasant rights advocates are used to conceal the real social and economic problems in the country.
“Filipino families, especially farmers and fisherfolk, have remained poor and became even more impoverished under the Duterte government as it failed to implement a free land distribution program, and, worse, continued to implement neoliberal policies that deprived them of their rights to food, shelter, and social security,” Soriano said.
The group also pointed out how laws such as Rice Liberalization Law has further worsened the lives not just of farmers but also local millers, traders, and farm workers.
Soriano also noted that the rights violations in the Philippines have become “systematic” with the government’s “whole of nation approach,” led by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
Communities, she said, are paying the price for unjust government policies “while the real criminals including those among the state forces remain free and untouched by law enforcers.”